Dan Auerbach was a proverbial man of many hats on a Saturday night at the Wiltern. Ever since the singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer shifted his operation to Nashville, so too has his style moved away from Ohio and the lumbering blues of the Black Keys or recent alt-rock of The Arcs to something emulating both classic Grand Ole Opry and Music City’s newly eclectic scene. On this visit back to Los Angeles, it was label impresario Auerbach promoting his new Easy Eye Sound imprint and some of its stable as much as it was musician and bandleader Auerbach once again shining in performance.
Following a throwback surf-rock support set by Shannon and The Clams, one of three label artists represented at this Easy Eye Sound Revue, Auerbach walked onstage accompanied by a six-piece band of aging studio legends from Nashville and Memphis. Opening with the title track from 2017’s Waiting on a Song, the chops of these veteran players were immediately obvious, turning the corners of country bliss and sixties rock, like “Malibu Man” and “Living in Sin,” with aplomb. The spookier, guitar-driven “Cherry Bomb” or falsetto vocal of “Pull Me Under Love” characterized the overarching theme of the show: diversity of repertoire reigned.
Tasteful acoustic guitar marked a quieter pair- “Never in My Wildest Dreams” and “King of a One-Horse Town”- before Auerbach had another of the Easy Eye roster ushered onstage. The cowboy-hatted soul singer Robert Finley got lowdown and funky, working out a four-song mini-set interspersed with between-tunes patter subtly (and not so subtly) urging the mostly hipster crowd to visit the merch table, purchase his Goin’ Platinum album, and get an autograph from the man, himself. Aside from the stirring, playfully suggestive performance, Finley’s inclusion seemed to pay homage to the package tours of days gone by, when artists on a label would travel from town to town backed by a single band, endorsing their latest hits.
Auerbach, like any good host, and salesman, repeatedly thanked Finley and The Clams for their contributions, as well as the audience for providing a warm reception. His eight-song second stanza started with a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s instrumental, “Albatross,” powering through to “Don’t Go To Strangers,” its biting guitars reminiscent of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse. The sing-along uplift of “Shine on Me” closed the set.
Finley returned for the encore, shaking up “Get It While You Can,” before the surprise of the night. Introduced to sing “In the Ghetto,” popularized in 1969 by Elvis Presley, was Beck. In black leather, the singer strolled onstage to wild applause and delivered the goods- more California cool than King of Rock and Roll, but effective nonetheless. Then, Auerbach, the man who showcased and hawked everyone but himself for the previous 90 minutes, stood alone in the spotlight for the delicate dénouement of “Goin’ Home,” and the Easy Eye Sound Revue packed up and rolled on.